[PRESS RELEASE] Coventry theatre company Talking Birds has been shortlisted in the prestigious Stage Awards 2019. The company is a finalist in the Innovation category for its mobile access tool, The Difference Engine, which allows D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences to access captions/subtitles, via their mobile devices, for performances that would otherwise be inaccessible to them.
Talking Birds began developing the system 8 years ago, with initial support from Arts Council England. The Difference Engine has recently been released as an App, thanks to funding from the Paul Hamlyn and Esmée Fairbairn Foundations, and is now in use by companies across the UK. The Stage writes: “the Difference Engine stands out for its efforts to make this technology available to small-scale companies, for whom new software and tools are often prohibitively expensive or impractical.”
The other companies on the shortlist in the Innovation category are the National Theatre London and Spotlight for its database for D/deaf and disabled actors; and New Diorama Theatre London for its innovative programming model.
“We’re delighted that the company has been nationally recognised for its efforts to make small scale, experimental and outdoor performance more accessible to D/deaf and hard of hearing audiences” said Janet Vaughan, Co-Artistic Director of Talking Birds. “Our belief is that access for all should lie at the heart of the creative process – and we hope that the Difference Engine can play a part in opening the door to audiences who might not otherwise be given access to new and exciting performance work.”
The Difference Engine can also be used to subtitle work in different languages, and the company is now working on extending the service to deliver Audio Description to enhance the experience of live performance for blind and partially sighted audience members.
Following the shortlisting announcement, Talking Birds’ twitter feed was overwhelmed with messages of support:
@MilkPresents tweeted “So deserved! You are revolutionising theatre”
@Richard_Walls1 tweeted “Congratulations to @birdmail for their #TheStageAwards nomination. A company always asking not only what theatre can be, but also who it can and should be for.”
@LouBraithwaite said “brilliant & well deserved nomination”
@DerbyTheatre tweeted: “Congratulations…We are proud to use the Difference Engine to caption some of our performances”
@Graeae said: “Fantastic news. Congratulations to everyone…especially our friends @birdmail for the groundbreaking #DifferenceEngine app”
@QueerLadyM tweeted: “Thank you for inventing it, you theatre-access geniuses.”
For more information about the Difference Engine system: www.talkingbirds.co.uk/DE
The announcement in The Stage can be found here: www.thestage.co.uk/the-stage-awards/2018/stage-awards-2019-shortlist-innovation-award/
The Difference Engine is named after Charles Babbage’s 1822 computer.